The idea of publishing a Catholic magazine dates back to 1907 when Bishop William J. Kenny of the Diocese of Saint Augustine approved a plan submitted by Rev. James Veal, a priest serving in Mandarin, Fla.
Rev. and Dear Sir –
The proposal to publish a monthly magazine to be known as the Florida Catholic is highly commendable, and I cordially approve of the plan submitted. If properly carried out the magazine will be most interesting and instructive. Publishing items of interest from each parish will bring our people more together and will insure an extensive circulation. The Question Box will be an interesting feature, and this, with the monthly editorials and original articles on timely topics of Catholic interest, will be the means of accomplishing untold good. It only remains for the Reverend Clergy to perseveringly adhere to the plan they have proposed to make the Florida Catholic not only a welcome visitor, but a necessity in every Catholic household.
– William J. Kenny, Bishop of St. Augustine
On Dec. 1, 1939, The Florida Catholic newspaper began publishing on a regular basis with its editorial offices located in Miami. At the time, the paper was published for the Diocese of Saint Augustine, which encompassed the entire state of Florida east of the Apalachicola River (panhandle).
In 1942, The Florida Catholic newspaper offices were moved to St. Augustine. They remained there until 1965 when the offices were moved to Orlando under the direction of Father David Page.
In 1958, the Archdiocese of Miami was created followed by the Dioceses of St. Petersburg and Orlando, respectively, in 1968. Two years later in 1970, Bishop Paul Tanner of the Diocese of St. Augustine, pulled out of The Florida Catholic newspaper family and launched Community, a unique concept of publishing the news and views of the Catholic Church in the Sunday editions of four secular newspapers in Gainesville, Jacksonville, Pensacola and Tallahassee. The page was designed to look like the editorial sections of the newspaper.
The pioneer editor of Community was the late Msgr. Joseph James. His goals for the newspaper were:
• To be a means of explaining the “what” and the “why” of Catholic beliefs and religious practice;
• To provide a report on the important Catholic and general religious news of the world, the nation and the local scene;
• To make editorial comment on issues and values current in society;
• To be a sign of the Catholic Church’s interest in the spiritual and material welfare of the entire community.
Twenty years later, official surveys of Community showed more than 400,000 persons received the page regularly making it the most widely circulated diocesan publication in the United States. “Community is one of the best examples of evangelization in the United States,” said Msgr. James in 1990. “It remains unique in Catholic journalism.”
In December 1985, Bishops Thomas Grady of Orlando, John Favalora of St. Petersburg, Keith Symons of Pensacola-Tallahassee, John Nevins of Venice and Thomas Daily of Palm Beach, formed a partnership to provide a statewide newspaper in five of the seven Florida dioceses. In 1990, the Archdiocese of Miami joined The Florida Catholic newspaper family.
In January 1992, Community for the Diocese of Saint Augustine reduced its size from a full page to a half page in the Sunday editions of the Florida Times-Union and the Gainesville Sun. The cost of purchasing a page of advertising had steadily increased by about 9 percent each year. At the time, the diocese faced the dual problem of remaining financially viable in the face of rising production and advertising costs and providing more in-depth coverage on matters of the faith for our practicing Catholics.
The St. Augustine Catholic magazine was launched by Bishop John J. Snyder with its first edition in September 1991. The magazine was published five times a year and distributed through our parishes every other month. In most parishes, the magazine was inserted in parish bulletins and handed to parishioners after Mass.
On March 23, 1997, the last issue of Community was published in the Florida Times-Union and Gainesville Sun newspapers. The frequency of the St. Augustine Catholic magazine was increased to six issues a year and 16 pages were added going from 20 to 36 pages an issue. At the same time, Bishop Snyder launched a “live” talk radio program that aired simultaneously in Jacksonville and Gainesville on stations that covered the listening markets of the diocese. The radio program, Common Ground, served as evangelization outreach to the mainstream of the community and was hosted by Kathleen Bagg, director of Communications until 1999.
In February 2006, Bishop Victor Galeone took a bold financial step and increased the frequency of the St. Augustine Catholic from six issues to 10 issues a year and began mailing the publication to every registered Catholic household – about 56,000 homes in the 17-county area of the diocese.
Catholic journalists throughout the United States are amazed that we have succeeded with such an attractive and readable tool. In fact, in 2000 the Diocese of Lansing in Michigan emulated our evangelization efforts with their own version of a popular monthly magazine called FAITH.
The Diocese of St. Augustine now partners with the Faith Catholic family that includes sister publications in the dioceses of Erie, Grand Rapids, Joliet, Laredo, Manchester, Pensacola-Tallahassee, Portland, Raleigh, Saginaw and Tulsa. Faith Catholic also produces magazines for Catholic TV in Boston, the Knights of Peter Claver, Mundelein Seminary in Chicago and the Society of the Little Flower. The 16 titles have a combined circulation of 932,000.
Our challenge today is to continue providing this award-winning publication to every Catholic household in the Diocese of Saint Augustine – following our mandate to “teach all Nations” by spreading the “Good News” of our Lord, Jesus Christ.